By Ruth Shireman
The camp was named after George Gordon Meade (1815 – 1872), a career United States Army officer and famous civil war general.
Camp Meade was established by the U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish American War as an organization and training camp. It was established August 24, 1898, and was occupied by the Second Army Corps of about 22,000 men (with expectations for 30,000 men), under the command of Major General William M. Graham.
Camp Meade was located on about three square miles south of Harrisburg and just west of Middletown, in what is now Lower Swatara Township. This site is bisected by the East-West PA Turnpike (76), East-West State Highway (Rt283), and the North-South Extension from State Highway Rt. 283 to the Harrisburg International Airport. The site is north of the airport in between Middletown and Highspire. The land rises to the north from the Susquehanna River. Much of the area in the north central part of the camp is still semi-rural. Residential areas cover many of these sites south of State Highway Rt. 283. Rosedale Road cuts across the site diagonally, northwest-southwest. Penn State University – Harrisburg Campus, is at the south side of the site and a number of the 1898 camp sites were located on the campus.
The Pennsylvania Railroad built a station at the entrance to the camp grounds and local trains made this a stopping point. President William McKinley visited Camp Meade on Saturday, August 27, 1898. 18,000 troops provided a marching review for the President.
Soon other companies arrived. Men had been moved from Camp Alger in Virginia. As the threat of disease began to surge to the forefront, brought on by unsanitary crowded conditions, the moral of the troops at Camp Alger began to suffer. Typhoid broke out. In an attempt to stem the disease, camps were relocated as was possible, with the 8th relocating a few miles away. On July 13, in the face of growing cries of gross mismanagement of Camp Alger and similar camps, it was determined that the men had to be relocated to new, healthier sites. The 8th was ordered to its home state to encamp at Camp Meade in Middletown, PA arriving on August 31, 1898.
The companies of the 8th Pennsylvania were all from south central Pennsylvania:
Company A – York County
Company B – Schuylkill County
Company C – Franklin County
Company D – Dauphin County (“Harrisburg City Grays”)
Company E – Schuylkill County
Company F – Schuylkill County
Company G – Cumberland County
Company H – Schuylkill County
Company I – Lancaster County
Camp Meade was inspected November 3 and 4th and found to be spacious and well designed. The abundant water supply was obtained from artesian wells and was piped to every facility. The Pennsylvania Canal and Susquehanna River were utilized for bathing for the men. The hospitals were large and well-equipped. The sanitary and other conditions were of high order and the camp as a whole had little criticism. The testimony of a number of officers and men were taken and the troops and camp inspected regularly. The Provost enforced strict discipline (after numerous arrests of disorderly soldiers were made in Harrisburg).
In November of 1898, only a few months after its opening, Camp Meade began the closure process and the troops were distributed to various camps in the South. The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Second Army Corps was relocated to Camp Fornance, Columbia, South Carolina. A brigade of the First Division, Second Army Corps to Camp Marion, Summerville, South Carolina. On November 16, 1898, the last man left Camp Meade.
On December 10, 1898, the Spanish American War was officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The 8th Pennsylvania would remain in service until March 7, 1898, when it was finally mustered out of service. At the time of mustering out, the unit consisted of 49 officers and 1,074 enlisted men. During its term of service, the 8th Pennsylvania had 9 enlisted men die of disease, 4 men desert, and 27 discharged on disability.
Part of the Camp Meade was reopened in April 1899 for the muster out of a number of volunteer units (2nd, 4th, 5th, and 9th, U.S. Volunteer Infantry) up through June 1899. In addition, several of the new volunteer regiments authorized by Congress in 1899 for the Philippine-American War assembled there during July to November 1899.
There is an historical state marker on the west side of Route 441 by the Middletown Area High School on North Union Street that commemorates Camp Meade.
Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org, 2-16-18.
The New York Times, August 20, and August 26, 1898
Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 686